We are often asked where the materials in the MERLOT collection come from. After all, there are more than 44,000 “open” learning objects there that can be discovered, shared, and often modified for reuse. In fact, while practically everything in the repository can be labeled as “open,” in one way or another, the MERLOT system itself is not open. That is, it is not “open source” as I described in a previous blog. The MERLOT software is proprietary.
Nevertheless, users accessing the MERLOT system may copy and reuse any of the webpages that are displayed by the system. Our Acceptable Use Agreement delineates how various webpages that are displayed by the MERLOT system can be used by our community Members who may wish to reproduce those pages as screenshots in presentations or journal articles. In general, our webpages can be reused and even modified, provided proper attribution to MERLOT is included in the reused material. You can even reuse comments and discussions that you find on the MERLOT site, provided that you don’t modify the wording of those items. This makes sense if you consider that quoted comments or discussions should never be modified, whether they are discovered in MERLOT or anywhere else.
But getting back to the MERLOT collection of materials itself, virtually all the contents are contributed by our community of registered Members who have either discovered the material somewhere on the web and want to share their discovery with colleagues, or have created new materials using any of the many web development tools, including our own Content Builder. (Alert: If you want to use the Content Builder, you have to register as a MERLOT “Member.” Membership is free, and you can get to it right from the MERLOT homepage.)
Whenever a material is contributed to the collection, among the descriptors (metadata) that we hope the contributor provides is whether or not the material has a Creative Commons license. If a material is created with the Content Builder, and the developer wishes to make public that material, either by submitting it to the MERLOT collection or by posting the link somewhere, the developer MUST include a Creative Commons license. After all, MERLOT does subscribe to the philosophies espoused by Creative Commons and will take every opportunity to promote them. For more information on Creative Commons, go to http://creativecommons.org.
Other sources of materials in the collection have been harvested from other collections under some kind of agreement or memorandum of understanding with the owner of the collection. For example, there are many high-quality but smaller collections created and supported by for- and non-profit organizations around the world. Often times those organizations decide that they would like to have their collection Incorporated into MERLOT’s more publicly visible repository. In such cases MERLOT has software and procedures to enable the “batch” input of those collections into the MERLOT database. For example, we have imported hundreds of foreign language learning objects this way from our international partners, Meital and INACAP. Also, sometimes organizations, formally or informally, wish to partner with us in order to synergistically promote more widespread use of Open Education Resources. As an example, MERLOT has used its batch import methodologies to input many of the Open Education Courseware Consortium’s (OCWC) open courses into our collection. This enables the MERLOT community to access a wide selection of open courses all identified as coming from the OCWC.
So you see, when you visit the MERLOT website to find reusable learning objects for a course you are developing, or to contribute new materials to the collection, you are participating in a worldwide community and network of colleagues with interests similar to yours. As individuals or as organizations together we foster a global cause of improved teaching and learning through the use of OER.
Blatant Placement Advertisements. In addition to making even more OERs available to the MERLOT community, MERLOT tries to promote the activities of our partners. For example, because of our relationship with OCWC, an organization whose philosophies are perfectly aligned with ours, we encourage you and your institution to participate in the OCWC-initiated, Open Education Week 2014, March 10-15.
The month of April too, looks to be a very exciting month for educators interested in OER. For starters MERLOT and our partner Sloan- C are hosting our annual Emerging Technologies for Online Learning conference in Dallas, April 9-11. And later on in the month (April 23-25), the OCWC Global Conference entitled, “Open Education for a Multicultural World” is being held in Ljubljana, Slovenia.
So, If you’re not already a Member, search MERLOT, join MERLOT, and start participating in the world of OER. If it’s not in our collection, maybe you’ll find it in Dallas. Or Ljubljana.